Have family visiting for the holidays? Here are some activities for spending time together in the PA Wilds!
Soon the house will be full of the smells of pies, stuffing, turkey and ham. Extra chairs will be brought out from storage. Parents will dust the places in the house that typically get overlooked, and kids will anxiously await the arrival of their favorite aunts, uncles and cousins. The holiday travel season is here! Whether you have family visiting the PA Wilds for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s, there’s nothing like welcoming your extended family members and making them feel at home.
Here are some ideas for how to make special memories while your family is visiting.
Article display photo by Tim Bride
Look at the decorations
Put yourself and your family into the holiday spirit by checking out the beautiful lights and decorations around your neighborhood. Strings of sparkling lights hang from the roofs of houses, miniature trains and Advent displays are featured in business windows, and communities start decorating their streetlights with festive signs and lights. If your family is nearby or doesn’t mind a short drive, check out the town of Wellsboro. This picturesque town’s annual events (Dickens of a Christmas and Christmas on Main Street) are sure to brighten your holiday!
Photo of Wellsboro by Tim McBride
Geocaching is a hobby mixes technology and nature, providing a lighthearted way for kids and adults to get moving and start exploring. This adventure involves the use of a handheld GPS receiver, and based on information provided on the official geocaching website the GPS receiver guides its operators to hidden treasures waiting to be found throughout the natural landscape. A typical cache consists of a waterproof container, a log book and trinkets that serve as trade items. Geocaching is an excellent way for visitors to see the town… and for residents to rediscover the places they thought they knew!
Take a photo together
Capture the memories! It’s not often that the entire family gets together, so mark the occasion by taking lots of group photos. Take candids of the cousins building gingerbread houses together, Dad and Uncle Fred snoring on the couch after watching a football game, Mom and Grandma giggling and reminiscing, and even the dog trying to beg for some of the turkey dinner. You might also want to consider hiring a photographer to snap the best shots possible. Many local photographers have large backdrops for professional photos, or they may even offer to meet you at your location.
Photo of Allison Schanbacher, juried Wilds Cooperative of PA photographer
Plan a day trip
If you have an extra day or even just a few extra hours, take your extended family to explore some of the fantastic places throughout the PA Wilds. If you’re near Bradford, the Zippo Case Museum is an excellent choice. Close to Kane, Kinzua Bridge is a thrilling (and educational) experience for the whole family. Similarly, the PA Grand Canyon and Pine Creek Valley are an unforgettable sight at Leonard Harrison or Colton Point State Parks. The Piper Aviation Museum will have the family dreaming of new heights in Lock Haven. Williamport is home to the World of Little League Museum for all the sluggers in your family. And there are so many more places to explore!
Make a craft
Involve the kids and get those little hands busy with a fun craft! Some typical holiday family crafts include making Christmas tree decorations, pinecone bird feeders using peanut butter and birdseed, gingerbread houses and sentimental crafts that use kids’ handprints. If you need ideas, search for inspiration online or visit your local library (many of which already offer fun activities for kids!).
Photo of Mickayla Poland of PA Made, juried Wilds Cooperative of PA artisan with her paint supplies
Start a new tradition
Every new tradition has to start somewhere, right? Do something together with your family that you all love, then make a plan to continue the tradition for years to come. This could be anything from sharing what you’re thankful for before dinner, going ice skating, hiding a “Christmas pickle” decoration on the tree, having a cookie exchange or caroling in the neighborhood. Write these traditions down, take photos and document the tradition for future generations.
Hiking / Biking
Want to get the whole family up and moving after a big dinner? Plan a short walk, hike or bike ride around the neighborhood or at a park. Be sure to account for all activity levels. Don’t be afraid to split up the group if necessary. Younger or more active family members might appreciate breaking a sweat hiking up a sharp incline, but older family members and those with mobility issues might enjoy a leisurely stroll through the local park or just sitting by the edge of a lake.
Photo of Beau Martonik hiking in the Wilds.
Play a friendly game of football, tag, disc golf or other activity
If you have plenty of younger family members who need to burn off some energy, try organizing a friendly game of tag, disc golf, cornhole or flag football. As the weather turns colder, running around outside can offer the chance for some fresh air while still keeping warm. Be sure to have cocoa ready inside after the game, and prepare a first aid kit in case there are any boo-boos.
Sing or play music together
Encourage your visitors to bring any musical instruments they might play, and start a jam session during your next family gathering! Pick a few songs that everyone knows or songs that are nostalgic for your family. Singing or making music together can fill the house with happy memories and beautiful sounds. If no one plays guitar or piano to accompany the songs, you can always opt do karaoke at home instead!
Photo of Heron, a Wilds Cooperative of PA member and band based in our region
Allow for downtime
Remember that every minute of the family gathering doesn’t need to be planned out. Although planned activities are great, sometimes the most magical moments are when you are chatting over a cup of coffee or petting the dog. Give everyone time to relax, especially if they have had a long journey. If you’re worried people might be bored, start a puzzle and leave it on a table for anyone to help solve as a quiet activity.
Photo of coffee being poured at Alabaster Coffee Roaster and Tea Company in Williamsport, a Wilds Cooperative of PA member
Have an adults-only night
Give the parents a break! If you are together for more than a few days, the older adults might appreciate some time away from the excitement of all the children. Hire a babysitter or have one of the adults stay with the kids, then allow the others to have some quiet time.
A trip to a local winery can offer some fun tastings. If you’re not into wine, breweries (including the historic Straub Brewery in St. Marys) can offer the perfect adult beverage. A local playhouse or theater might be having a performance that the adults will enjoy more than the kids.
Let someone else cook
Tired of working in a hot kitchen, prepping the turkey and making sure that all of the side dishes are ready in time for dinner? There’s no shame in letting someone else cook. Restaurants throughout the PA Wilds pride themselves on offering amazing holiday dinners, which you can either eat at the restaurant itself or order to go. Even if you plan on making that big holiday dinner, you can always plan to enjoy your favorite restaurant as a family the next day for breakfast or lunch.
Make a donation or volunteer
Celebrate the spirit of the holidays by giving back. Gather up things that you’re not using and donate them, or pull together a cash donation for one of your family’s favorite charities. You might also want to use some of your time together to volunteer! Churches and other community organizations often hold free meals around the holidays, and they usually appreciate some extra helpers to cook, serve or clean up.
Photo of the 2022 Adopt A Stream Team, courtesy of Ray Hunt
Go camping indoors
If the entire family is staying at your house, sometimes space can be limited. That doesn’t mean it has to be uncomfortable! Pile some pillows and blankets into the middle of the living room or den. Pull out the sleeping bags and build a makeshift blanket fort. Kids especially will love “going camping” while still indoors. You can even use your kitchen stove to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. Although the crew might get a little noisy, be a little more lenient with the kids and allow them to make those special memories with their siblings and cousins.
Photo of Tara Heckler of Blackberry & Sage Market, juried Wilds Cooperative of PA artisan
Take home a piece of the PA Wilds
Every holiday visit must come to an end. Before the extended family packs up the cars and heads back onto the road, make sure they know how much you love them and enjoy spending time with them. Give them a little souvenir to take back home.
This could be some sweet treats made in the Pennsylvania Wilds, a handcrafted mug or jewelry, a guidebook for the next time they visit or a tote bag to help keep the car organized.
Whatever you choose to give, make sure it comes from the heart and will remind them of you (and their time in the PA Wilds) each time they use it!
Always more to explore!
Although these are just some ideas and tips for spending time with your family during the holidays in the PA Wilds, you can find many more fun activities at the PA Wilds “Find Activities” page.
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